TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
LAS VEGAS — At its 31st annual Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas Aug. 10 – 16, with more than 6,000 travel professional in attendance, the luxury retail travel network is eyeing US$26.4 billion in annual sales and looking ahead to the potential impact of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election on travel in the U.S. and beyond.
A record 6,515 travel professionals from 107 countries have descended on Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas this week for this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week. Attendance at the event is up 7%.
The network’s advisors and partners will attend a whopping 278,392 one-on-one meetings – that’s about 1.4 million minutes all together, says Virtuoso, or about 2.7 years – at Virtuoso Travel Week, plus there are also some 853 separate events during the week for networking, socializing and relationship building.
Virtuoso says the event is responsible for $420 million in sales, and says advisors who have gone to Virtuoso Travel Week once in the last three years sell 67% more than their peers, while advisors who have been at every event over the last three years sell 179% more.
Virtuoso now has 1,000 agency locations with more than 20,000 advisors in 50 countries and is forecasting a 10.9% increase in sales for 2019.
The luxury retail travel network says it produces over U.S.$26.4 billion in annual sales. Hotel sales are up 15.3%, air sales 13.8%, insurance/car/specialty sales 10.3%, on-site ground operator sales 10.2% and tour sales 3.2%.
Cruise sales are up 11.5% with strong growth in markets where Virtuoso has focused on growing its presence, including Latin America and Caribbean (9%), Canada (21%), Australia (32%), EMEA (100%+) and Asia (100%+). Cruise sales out of the U.S. market are up 9%.
While Virtuoso Travel Week is the network’s headline event, it’s also looking ahead to January 2020 and the U.S. & Canada Forum, taking place again in Las Vegas Jan. 29-31, 2020. The U.S. & Canada event is one of several worldwide Forum dates.
Meanwhile Virtuoso says its niche market strategy, Communities, is flourishing, with six communities in all: Adventure, Voyages, Wellness, Family and this year’s newcomers, Culinary and Ultraluxe. Participation in 2019 is up 35% to 3,295 advisors, with a 75% increase in partners, to 262.
New for 2020, Virtuoso Celebration Travel, will cover everything from destination weddings and honeymoons to birthdays, anniversaries and other milestone events. This year also saw the first Virtuoso Community Day on March 30 in New Orleans for culinary and family travel. The second Virtuoso Community Day, focused on adventure travel, will take place in May 2020.
Virtuoso Communities offer additional training, networking and marketing tools such as themed travel catalogues and Virtuoso.com profile enhancements. Advisors who are engaged in Communities are outpacing their non-participating peers with a 19% increase in production compared to 12%, says the network.
The first Virtuoso Community Cruise will take place May 28-31, 2020 with Seabourn from San Francisco to Vancouver. Some 150 top participating advisors will network with 48 partners.
Other news of note coming out of Virtuoso Travel Week this week …
On average, sales grew by 14.3% in the U.S. in the years before an election: 2007, 2011 and 2015. They grew by 2.9% on average in election years: 2008, 2012 and 2016.
In markets outside the U.S., sales increased by 36.1% the year before an American presidential election, and 18.4% the year of an election.